Arts

BreathingThe breath is the first step in most mind-body relaxation skills. Deeper breathing is one of the classic paths to balancing the brain and body. It is the most portable stress reduction skill. You can take it anywhere. Certain breathing practices can restore peace and give us a pause that allows the “wise owl” part of our brain to take charge, preventing overreactions that hurt health and relationships.

The benefits of taking a belly-breathing breath break include:

  • Clearing the mind;
  • Fooling the brain into thinking we’re relaxed;
  • Helping our wise mind get in charge rather than letting the stressed “reptilian” or “hot reactor” part of the brain call the shots;
  • Neutralizing or toning down strong emotions;
  • Setting the stage for calmness;
  • Oxygenating blood, which may enhance alertness and performance; and
  • Exercising the diaphragm in a manner similar to laughter.

If you’ve ever watched a baby breathe, they’re doing a version of belly breathing. You see their abdomen going up and down. For most adults, when we’re not paying attention, our breathing is often shallow and involves just the upper part of the chest. Add a comment

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Michael WestmorelandMichael Westmoreland first discovered ventriloquism at 10 years old when he received an Emmett Kelly puppet and ventriloquism instructions for Christmas. Jay Johnson from Soap, a television show, inspired Westmoreland to become a ventriloquist. Like many ventriloquists, his goal is to entertain and make people laugh.

Ventriloquism evokes images of Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy and Paul Winchell with Knuckle Head, Jerry and buxom blond Tessie.

“Don Knotts and Johnny Carson had been ventriloquists,” Westmoreland said. “Actually Edgar Bergen was not that good and was often moving his lips when Charlie was talking. But then he was on the radio so no one really knew.”

Westmoreland admired Paul Winchell, who revolutionized ventriloquism. He and his contemporaries agree that learning ventriloquism is a fraction of the skill – learning to be funny and entertaining is key.

Considered a late 18th century and early 19th century stagecraft, ventriloquism gained popularity in Vaudeville. Ventriloquism is the act of “throwing one’s voice,” and is less of a trick and more of an actor’s art. Changing voice, switching character and acting along with the figure are seen nowadays as more of an art form than a quirky novelty.

Decades later, ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator are keeping ventriloquism energized and novel. Many, including Westmoreland, have added singing. His figure, Scotty, loves to sing and does it quite well. But the magic comes in staging a performance. Add a comment

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Loli StamsLoli Stams was an artist who will be remembered by Painters at the Lake and the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) as a talented, enthusiastic artist who had a strong presence wherever she showed up.

Those who knew her were shocked to hear of her sudden passing on Aug. 22. “I just can’t believe it,” said FAA President Susan Lang.

A longtime member of both groups, Stams encouraged her fellow artists, teaching and sharing with them new ways of using their imaginations.

She asked no less of herself than she did of others, always challenging herself with new ideas and emboldening others to fly a little higher. Stams never believed in setting limits for herself or anyone else. She set higher expectations for herself and others because she believed artists who practiced their art could do better and that it would eventually show in their work. Add a comment

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Amy ShawleyAmy Shawley, a member of the Fluvanna Art Association and an artist representative for Golden Products, spoke recently to the FAA members about creative ways to make prints and collages.

Shawley discussed various products that can be used along with acrylic paints to create mixed media pieces. Gloss mediums are often used in mixed media collage and often blended with acrylic paint. Shawley demonstrated using it as an adhesive to build a collage. One member asked about diluting white glue and using it in place of the gloss medium. She did not recommend it.

Shawley proceeded to mix the gloss medium with a yellow ochre acrylic paint. She also used a teal color as well. She used a heavy gel gloss which is less fluid and has more body, adding it to the paint and painting the color onto a board. She then proceeded to add a piece of cheesecloth, pressing the paint harder into the cloth, giving the collage an interesting woven texture blended into the paint and gel medium.

Several audience members asked if it’s possible to go back and work on a piece later, considering that acrylic paints dry quickly. Add a comment

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Fund raiser for libraryIt was the brainchild of Mona Orange and Martha Horsfall. While swimming laps in the pool at Health Nutz one day, Horsfall and Orange exchanged ideas about the annual event for members of the Friends of the Library.

“I suggested we have a thrift shop fashion show,” said Orange. “Martha and I laughed and kept laughing until we realized it was a pretty good idea.” They brought it up to the committee and everyone jumped on board.

The idea was to get at least 10 models to show off outfits, including accessories, they purchased from area thrift shops, yard or estate sales. It developed into a practical showcase for recycling and frugality. The Salvation Army may not be Saks Fifth Avenue, but with a little creativity and some savvy fashion know-how, no one would know the difference.

They gathered 18 willing models who went out shopping for various types of clothing ensembles for men, women, children and teens. No one was able to tell the difference between the store-bought items and those that were secondhand. All the clothing was well-coordinated and looked brand new.

Some purchased clothing items sit in the back of the closet and never sees the light of day, or may be worn only once before being consigned or donated. Most of the clothing is in good condition and in some cases may be brand new. Thrift shopping is a great way to find designer labels, as some of the models discovered.

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